Some thoughts on how to move forward and rebuild with a sense of optimism and purpose.

Anyone who knows me is aware that I’m an optimist and yesterday as I presented to 50 rural women business owners the question of ‘what next?’ and ‘where to from here?’. I thought it worth sharing some of what I said to the group.

I choose to be positive and seek out opportunities for business.

And, while recent times have undoubtedly been challenging, I’m focus on the re-imagination of the next stage of business opportunity  and  promoting RedBalloon for Business to new audiences. I truly believe that by taking learnings from this time, and by being flexible and agile, we can push forward with resilience and conviction. As I said to one woman in the webinar – what is your ‘super power’ and how else can you use it?

Things are improving (and Victoria will too) and I think we’re going to see a recalibration; a subtle return to uniquely Australian values like having a go, and helping your mates. 

But recovery is something we all have to focus on – there could be partners who used to be competitors, or assets that can be used for something else.

Adversity provides opportunity 

It seems a life time ago that Covid-19 was officially described as a pandemic by the WHO yet it was only in March 2020. How far we have come since those first initial weeks when our website hits plummeted; from eighty-five thousand to just eight thousand a day. Initially, I was disheartened: how to keep an adventure and experiences-based company delivering customers to the small businesses who depend on us.Remember when awkward elbow-bumps replace hugs, and a distance of 1.5 metres becomes unbearably significant? Our community was only just recovered from the bushfires.  

But after the initial concern, together with our leaders and my business partner we wondered: “OK, where to from hereWe know that local experiences will be much sought after when lockdown ends. And how can RedBalloon continue to support its more than two thousand small business partners at this time?”  

The answer lay in moving sideways; in thinking of alternate ways to provide our offering. Whether entirely new or somewhat modified in order to be COVID-safe, we knew people still wanted great experiences; still needed things to look forward to and enjoy. To be purveyors of joy in a time of gloom  We took that challenge very seriously. Both RedBalloon and our suppliers were urged to look at new ways of doing things. So for example, we put fewer people into hot air balloons, but we still sent them aloft. We reconfigured V8 cars so they too were COVID-safe. We devised experiences, like gin tastings with a virtual distillery tour, that could be enjoyed from home.  

believe it’s lateral thinking like this which helps kick-start recovery. Because when you try something new, you’re already on a path to improvement. But always remembering what we are known for – and our core brand essence. 

A collective effort – communities working together 

We’ve all been looking at our lives through a very different lens in recent months. Like everyone, I’ve had to re-think my concept of work, of leisure, of health and of home.  

I do feel a real sense of responsibility. As I see it, our job at RedBalloon for Business now is to help Australia’s recovery by continuing to bring big business and small business together. The impetus to get back on track begins at a grass-roots and regional level. If, for example, we can send a hundred people for an experience in a country town, the economic ripple effect of that and the end benefit to communities far outweigh any initial outlay on vouchers. 

Embracing the local and authentic 

Consumer habits have been tremendously altered by the uncertainty we’ve been facing. Even if people are allowed to go out and socialise; what’s to say that they will? Similarly, they might return to spending, but are much more likely to be discerning about what they actually spend their money on. In this tentative new atmosphere, consumer choice is highlighted.  

More than ever, people will be questioning the integrity and the provenance of their purchases. They want things that make them feel good, that are authentic and real. Anything curated, bespoke or hand-picked will be desirable. ‘Buy Australian’ holds a new resonance.  

I’ve always believed our RedBalloon for Business experiences build emotional connection between our clients and their employees, customers and communities. Now, people will consciously seek out activities they know will benefit those who need it most – the small business owners who’ve been doing it tough for too long. 

We’re working with over two thousand small Australian businesses right now – businesses that are doing their utmost to provide amazing service and to ensure each and every RedBalloon customer walks away thinking “That was fantastic!” 

Remember, fun has not been cancelled 

While it’s difficult to know what’s happening from one week to the next, it’s important to stay positive and remember that you can still have a good time, whether that’s out and about or bunkered down at home. Having something enjoyable to look forward to is a great motivator, which is why businesses are once more reaching out to us and enquiring how they can reward or treat their staff. 

We’ve just made all of our vouchers valid for five years, so whether there are sporadic lockdowns or not, their redemption won’t be affected. Plus, we’ve made it easy to see which experiences are ‘good to go’ right now. Each of these suppliers has subscribed to a stringent eleven-point COVID safety plan. In addition, there are over a hundred brand new experiences on offer. So, it’s time to reclaim having some fun! 

I’m looking forward to seeing how we – not just as businesses but as people within the broader Australian community – can turn ‘challenging’ into ‘championing’. Championing grass-roots local endeavour. Championing the idea of recovery. And above all, championing optimism. 

I have always believed it is okay to have fun in business – and that is more important than ever right now.

To find out how we can help you connect your clients with small businesses – and aid in Australia’s recovery – click here.     

Also see our Handpicked selection of blogs, ideas and stories for business success or join the conversation on LinkedIn. 

Also published on Medium.

Grow & Scale Your Business by Naomi Simson

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